We don’t always remember what we deserve to, or want to. We remember what we have to, which isn’t quite the same thing. We remember because one memory has strong-armed aside the others.
I have to take your word for it when you tell me I took my first steps at nine months or that my favorite food was spaghetti, which I could slurp deep into my throat and pull out again, earning me the nickname: Noodles. I don’t remember learning to walk or mastering my first party trick but I do remember the other things. Bad things. I know my very first memory of being alive is more than most people could imagine if they allowed themselves to try.
I don’t remember being born to you but I’ll believe you when you tell me it was one of the happiest days of your life. For a long time, I didn’t know if my birth was a burial or a resurrection. Maybe you felt that way about me too.
Some of my memories aren’t memories at all but impressions that have been stamped into my bones like knuckles rapping on wooden door. Like the undercurrent of fear that rises is me and puckers my skin until all of the hair on my arms stand up. I could bet my life on anything this is a feeling my body has memorized since birth. The stinging in my eyes that feels like they could see long before they were ever formed in your womb. Eyes that go so far back they can see the things you did. We inherit stuff, not all furniture & knickknacks.
It does feel good to hear that I was conceived in love…even if only on your part. That even in chaos and pain…I was wanted by somebody.
I remember early on, the feeling of separation between us. Between my sister and I. Dad kept us separated in order to better control. He taught us to hate ourselves but also each other.
I was born to you and torn from you. Over and over. Dad always resented any bond you tried to build up. So much of your energy went to pleasing him. I know now, you were trying to keep the waters from raging. I can rationalize it now but it felt like betrayal as a child. It seemed that bad behavior got the most attention. I tried on those shoes more than a few times myself. Yours and his.
It’s a strange thing to hear that the man who terrorized me through childhood at one time brought you comfort and an escape from your own dad.
It’s strange to hear that he was ever a teenager falling in love over music whose lyrics felt like they were penned exactly for you.
It’s hard to imagine either of you this way but I try because it helps me understand. For a long time, I didn’t want to understand. I didn’t want to belong to anyone. I didn’t want to try and sort through the muck to find the gold. Now I want to be somebody’s daughter. If freedom is the goal – a little blood is always required. The life cycle of the angry daughter and her mother: condemned, redeemed, forgiven, but above all, acknowledged. The hardest part being that last one. I’m still working on it.
Born to each other, torn apart, reunited, torn apart. Yet, somehow we’ve always found our way back to each other.
I always forget that you were a child yourself when you had me. You say you came alive when I was born. I don’t remember it but I think I believe that too. Two babies being born into a world we would take a lifetime trying to untangle.